Harry & David Buys Cushman’s

Food gifts marketer Harry & David Holdings is getting into the grove: The company announced on Aug. 11 that it had acquired Cushman Fruit Co., a direct citrus fruit seller based in West Palm Beach, FL. Terms of the sale were not announced.

Cushman’s sells fruit and gourmet foods through its catalog, Website and two retail locations in Florida. It operates a call center in Georgia, and according to its data card, has about 98,000 12-month buyers.

Best known for its Honeybell tangerine-grapefruit hybrid, Cushman’s generated sales of $19 million in fiscal 2007, according to a press release.

Medford, OR-based Harry & David’s signature product is its Royal Riviera pears. The company’s total sales for fiscal 2007 reached $561.0 million.

Harry & David, which in April 2007 sold its gardening cataloger Jackson & Perkins, is building up its food gifts catalog empire via acquisitions. It purchased breakfast foods merchant Wolferman’s in January for $23 million. The company reportedly paid less than that for Cushman’s.

It’s no surprise that small food merchants are being gobbled up by larger players. “The smaller guys are getting squeezed,” says Tony Cox, founder of food catalog consultancy 5th Food Group.

“The bigger guys have access to better freight rates, and a merchant the size of Harry & David can negotiate its freight at a much lower rate than someone like Cushman’s.”

In fact, Cox says, “we get calls almost daily from people either looking to buy or wanting to sell a multichannel food merchant.”

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